UK airline Virgin Atlantic, owned by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, is hailing the development of a ‘revolutionary’ low-carbon aviation fuel produced from industrial waste gases.
The fuel has half the carbon footprint of conventional jet fuels, says the airline, and is produced from waste gases that would otherwise be burnt into the atmosphere as CO2.
The production process uses a technology developed by Swedish Biofuels to capture, ferment and chemically convert waste gases from steel production into fuel, avoiding any issue with growing feedstocks.
The technology is currently being trialled in New Zealand by Virgin Atlantic’s partner LanzaTech, but the company is commissioning a larger demonstration facility in Shanghai, China. Plans are also underway to develop commercial facilities in China by 2014, as well as in India, before rolling out to the UK and the rest of the world.
LanzaTech says the process could be used with around 66% of the world’s steel mills.
Virgin Atlantic plans to introduce the new fuel on flights between London and Shanghai and Dehli within two to three years.
“This partnership to produce a next generation, low-carbon aviation fuel is a major step towards radically reducing our carbon footprint, and we are excited about the savings that this technology could help us achieve,” says Branson. “This new technology is scalable, sustainable and can be commercially produced at a cost comparable to conventional jet fuel.”
The airline, which was one of the first to undertake a biofuel-powered flight, is pinning its hopes on the new fuel to take it beyond its pledge of reducing carbon per passenger km 30% by 2020.
For further information:
Thomson’s biofuel flights a ‘hollow PR stunt’ says environmental group (6-Oct)
Lufthansa launches biofuel-powered scheduled flights (15-Jul)
Sustainable biofuels cleared for takeoff (4-Jul)
Honeywell-owned aircraft to make first transatlantic biofuel flight (17-Jun)
12 October 2011